Boxing your bike for flight
If you’re touring abroad, it’s always better to have your own bike with you rather than trying to rent them or buy them out there. Flying with your bike needn’t be as tricky or expensive as you might think.
Check with your airline on their policies for flying your bike. Most airlines treat it as a piece of sports equipment in the same way as they do golf clubs or skis and they have a fixed fee.
We were charged $25 USD each for the flight from San Diego to New Zealand, with Air New Zealand. Air Transat (Canadian Affair) charged us £60 GBP each for the flight from Manchester to Vancouver.
I hear that US internal flights charge $30 USD, and that Qantas even carry them for free!
Some cyclists suggest just wrapping your bike in a thick transparent plastic bag so that baggage handlers can see what it is. The hope being that they treat your bike better than just another box.
Some carriers insist on them being boxed. You can buy expensive hard plastic bike boxes from retailers, but the easiest way I think is to get a cardboard box from a bike shop. Get in touch with your local bike shop, and they are likely to have a spare box which bikes are delivered from their suppliers in. Pick up some strong parcel tape and and any other bubble wrap or packaging you can find and you should be ready to go.
Depending on how big your bike is and how small your box is, you will need to dismantle your bike to some extent. We removed wheels, racks, pedals, handlebars and seat. It’s a good way to get to know your bike inside out – taking it apart and rebuilding it several times. Just make sure you keep all the bolts screwed in the frame and remember what goes where!
The other difficult part is that most airlines only allow one piece of hold luggage each, but we have four panniers each plus tents and sleeping bags. The first solution we tried was the large woven plastic bags. These are cheap and easy to find on eBay, but they are not very comfortable to carry. Also, make sure you get them wrapped in shrink-wrap at the airport to help protect them. These bags seem to be lots harder to find in the USA.
For our second flight, we bought some cheap collapsible duffel bags from Walmart for $20 each. These are a lot sturdier and are hopefully small enough to pack and carry rather than dispose of.
Cross your fingers
No matter how expensive your boxes, or how well you pack them your bikes eventually end up in the hands of the airline. Once you’ve checked in you just have to cross your fingers and hope that they make it to the other end, and come out in one piece.